meeting of minds and mountains

gail priest: martin del amo, mountains never meet & duel

MARTIN DEL AMO IS BEST KNOWN FOR HIS INTRIGUING SOLO WORKS AND FOR SOME OBSERVERS IT MIGHT SEEM THAT HIS MOVEMENT LANGUAGE IS SO INTERLINKED WITH HIS PHYSIOGNOMY THAT IT CANNOT BE PERFORMED BY OTHERS. HOWEVER FOR SEVERAL YEARS NOW DEL AMO HAS UNDERTAKEN A VARIETY OF RESEARCH PROJECTS INVOLVING HIM AS A NON-PERFORMING CHOREOGRAPHER. A RECENT PROJECT AT SYDNEY’S CRITICAL PATH SAW PAUL WHITE PERFORMING AN UNCANNILY ACCURATE YET TRANSFORMED VERSION OF ‘DEL AMO’ MOVEMENT.

Discussing his reasons for the transition from solo performer to director-choreographer, del Amo cites Kate Champion from Force Majeure who was also, at one stage, best known for her solo works. “Kate said you can only mine yourself for material for so long and at some point you get more interested in other people’s backgrounds, stories and ideas. I think this is exactly what happened to me. I’ve always really enjoyed working by myself and having that freedom but sometimes I thought it would be nice to work with other bodies and have another input on that level.”

Del Amo undertook some early research in 2008 with WAAPA’s post-graduate dance company, LINK. The work, Mountains Never Meet, an exploration of the difference between walking and dancing, was made with an all female cast. “I was working with very reduced movement material, but treating it in a complex way choreographically and that was quite difficult for the dancers…it [required] completely adapting or un-learning what they had studied over the years.”

While he found this process valuable del Amo says, “I felt there was something else in that work—the way it could communicate with audiences— that could be captured in a different way.” So for the version that is to take place in August as part of the Western Sydney Dance Action and Parramatta Riverside Dance Bites program, del Amo has chosen to redevelop the work with nine male non-dancers. Having finalised his cast with co-operation from Bankstown Youth Development Service (BYDS) he says, “I’m really happy with the guys that we’ve got now. It’s an eclectic bunch from different cultural backgrounds, different ages [ranging from 15 to mid-20s] and they also have slightly different sporting or physical backgrounds.”

For Mountains Never Meet del Amo has also invited former professional soccer player turned performer Ahil Ratnamohan—most recently seen in his own work, The Football Diaries (RT91, p42) and in Branch Nebula’s SWEAT (RT102, p15)—to take on the role of artistic associate. The working relationship between the two is an ever-evolving one. While del Amo has worked as a mentor on some of the younger artist’s projects, Ratnamohan has taken on the role of trainer and consultant on del Amo’s works such as It’s A Jungle Out There (2009-2010). “I wanted a more urban, non-dance feel and asked him to do soccer training with me to improve my footwork. Out of that—being his mentor and him being mine—we established some kind of training practice.” As well as performing in this project, Ratnamohan will have the roles of collaborator and liaison with the other performers. Del Amo says, “the choreography and direction is with me, but we’re actually sharing how that is being implemented.”

Ratnamohan will also perform in Duel, a duet with Connor Van Vuuren that Martin del Amo is choreographing to accompany Mountains Never Meet. “Duel involves much more intricate movement and is inspired by some memorable sporting battles, but not tied to one particular sport.” Again, the performers have different training backgrounds, Ratnamohan in soccer and van Vuuren in martial arts and gymnastics, so the choreographic relationship is ambiguous—“Is this a battle against each other, with each other or for each other? It’s also an investigation into what constitutes a duet. In some ways it’s set up as two intertwined solos rather than as a proper partnering duet.”

Del Amo is also known for his strong collaborative relationship with composers and in this instance he will continue his collaboration with Cat Hope who scored the original LINK version in Perth. Del Amo says, “The sound world Cat has created relates to the physical concept of the work without mirroring or imitating it. It features whistling, urban sounds such as AM radio and a big percussion section consisting of marching band sounds without the band music. Cat will digitally manipulate pre-recorded elements live which ensures some ‘breathing room’ for the interplay between movement and sound. “

Both Mountains Never Meet and Duel look to be exciting additions to Martin del Amo’s impressive and highly idiosyncratic body of work.

Western Sydney Dance Action & Riverside Theatres 2011 Dance Bites, Mountains Never Meet, choreographer Martin del Amo, artistic associate Ahil Ratnamohan, performers Ahil Ratnamohan, Connor Van Vuuren, Fraink Maino, Benny Ngo, Mahesh Sharma, Sean Stanley, Nikki-Tala Tuiala Talaoloa, Dani Zarodosh; composer Cat Hope; Parramatta Riverside Theatre, Aug 17-20

RealTime issue #103 June-July 2011 pg. 32

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

14 June 2011
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